|Two Meter Ground Plane|
Just about every new ham these days starts out on the
two meter band. Most will get a handi talkie or a mobile rig to use both
mobile or fixed. Two meter FM is a great way to start out. There are always
some repeaters around to use and antennas are small or easy to make.
When I was a Novice back in the 1970's, just about everyone started out on the HF bands and used CW. I like many others started out on donated or borrowed tube type equipment. VHF gear was very pricey. Some people used converted commercial radios but these were limited to two channels or so. There were not that many repeaters in my area, so there was not a lot of need for extra frequencies anyway.
VHF gear is now both low priced and powerful. HTs now sport dual band coverage as well as extended receive. This makes it possible to use you rig as a police/fire scanner as well as monitoring the NOAA weather stations. There is also railroad traffic and business band communications among other things to listen to.
Most people who start out on the two meter band soon find out that VHF is not strictly local. Anyone who spends time on the band will hear repeaters from a distance of 25 to 50 miles or better. When propagation is good, it goes further than that. Any ham would like to take advantage of these signals, so the first order of business is a search for a better antenna.
The first antenna I came up with for VHF was a 5/8 wave, base loaded mobile antenna I found in the garbage at a friends CB shop. I found the resonator as shown. I also dug out a stinger or whip to insert into the top of the base loaded coil. I bought a magnet mount to use with it and I still have it to this day. It really perked up my old Icom HT when I went mobile with five watts. Later I found it worked well stuck to a washer or dryer in my apartment. Wow ! Two antennas for the price of one .
This beginning made me a believer in 5/8 wave antennas. They have a low angle of radiation and seem to do a little better than a 1/4 wave.
I have used a 1/4 wave antenna too. I built one on a SO239 chassis connector and mounted it to a microphone stand on my apartment patio. Again I used that with my old HT with five watts and had no trouble working repeaters in a thirty mile radius.
My first home was a two story, zero lot line with an attic. Me and a friend of mine built a halfwave J-pole and it worked great. My attic was up about twenty feet or so. Once again my old Icom HT was employed and I got really great coverage. Five watts got me into repeaters 50 miles away !
I now have a single level home and a forty foot tower. I run an old Yaesu FT-2500M with five, twenty and fifty watts. I decided to revisit the 5/8 wave antenna and bought one from an online vendor. It was cheap enough at $60 including shipping, so what the heck. I found some scrap steel and welded up a standoff to attach to the tower. The antenna had to be trimmed to resonance and I made sure all the connections were tight and weatherproof. As far as transmitting, I find it is about the same as the halfwave J-pole. However, reception is a bit better. I often hear repeaters out to about 125 to 200 miles or so. When conditions are good, I can get into these repeaters enough to make short contacts. I have also found many hams on direct or non repeater frequencies. I have had no trouble working these stations in a 50 mile radius.
Like anything else in amateur radio, a simple setup can give surprising results. Try some of these antennas or others you can find on the internet, hamfests, or through local hams.